I recently became the “guardian” of my daughter’s parrot. He’s about 7 years old and my daughter has owned him since he was three. My daughter was just accepted into an out of state college and will be living in a dorm that doesn't allow pets. I don’t mind this responsibility. In fact, I am quite fond of this bird. He is intelligent and affectionate and really seems to like my company. But, he has never seemed entirely healthy. I am wondering if maybe his diet is lacking. My daughter just feeds him seeds. It seems to me that if he were a wild bird, he’d probably be eating other things as well. What do you think?
Reyna, Mission Viejo
I’m troubled by your statement that “he has never seemed entirely healthy.” You did not elaborate on what your bird’s condition is or what you have noticed appears to be a problem. First and foremost, you should have your parrot to a veterinarian who is an avian specialist. All pets should have regular physical exams; but if your pet is showing signs of poor health, especially chronic poor health, you should not delay.
You are right about wild birds. They have a diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, seeds, soft bodied bugs and insects. Unfortunately, captive bred birds are often raised on a seed-only diet. Once they have developed the habit of eating this type of food to the exclusion of all other food types, it is difficult to persuade them to take anything else.
Frequently, birds on a seed-only diet compound problems for themselves by picking out one or two of their favorite seeds from a mix and leaving all the rest. A favorite seed for many parrots is the Sunflower seed. However, this is basically junk food, in people terms. Sunflower seeds have little nutritional value and are considered high in fat. Consumption of too many Sunflower seeds can lead to obesity and the lack of any
other nutrient rich food can lead to disease.
Try adding some vegetables and fruits to your parrot’s diet. Fresh peas and and bananas are
a good start. If he accepts these, add some more fruit. Apples are usually a tasty and nutritional treat. Be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before feeding to your pet.
Most veterinarians advise against giving citrus fruits to parrots especially avocados which can be deadly to parrots. Other foods to steer clear of are chocolate and table scraps. Many processed “people foods” can cause serious problems for birds. It’s best to give him a natural avian diet.
If you feel that your bird’s nutritional needs require some immediate attention, you might consider sprinkling some powdered vitamins over his fruits and vegetables. You can also purchase some avian pellets or cakes that have been fortified with extra vitamins and minerals.
A balanced and nutritional diet is as important for animals as it is for humans. Deficits in vitamins and minerals, or a high fat diet can strip away the health of any living creature. I am sure you will notice a huge difference in your bird’s general fitness and appearance once you get him used to eating a varied mix of healthy foods.